2014 in review

Can’t believe it’s this time of the year again! The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. 😀

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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IWSG: Celebrate

I couldn’t have put it better! Brilliant advice for all insecure writers out there! 😀

A Creative State of Mind

iwsgIt’s the first Wednesday of the month, and if you’re a regular follower of this blog, you’ll know what that means. Time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) monthly post! If you’d like to learn more about this sometimes neurotic (but always fun) group of writers, click HERE to be directed to the IWSG site.

Today, I’m going to talk about celebrating our accomplishments. Like many insecure writers, I’m not very good at promoting myself. As a child, I was raised to be modest. I was taught that bragging was a Bad Thing and that people wouldn’t like me if I talked about myself. I’ll bet many of you were taught the same lesson growing up.

As authors, we’re put in a tough spot. We’re business owners. We have a product to sell. We have to tell people about our book and we have to give them a reason to want…

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Writing 101 – writing tips by Morgen Bailey

More invaluable advice from the ‘Queen of Blogs’ herself, maestro, Morgen Bailey. Here are some fantastic writing tips to improve and tighten that manuscript! Pull up a chair, make yourself comfy and get your pen and paper ready, you’ll need to take notes. 😀

Morgen 'with an e' Bailey

In the absence of a guest blog today, I thought I’d bring you the contents of my Writing 101 (tips) page, just in case you’ve not explored this site (there’s a lot to see). Regardless of how much you’ve written (for me over 400 short stories / flash fiction, a bit of poetry and seven novels), we can all still learn. Let me know (in the comments box below) what struck a cord with you and if you have any tips of your own, please add those too and I’ll include them on the Writing 101 (tips) page, credited to you of course.

Also see Exercises, Ideas and Sentence starts, and for those living in the UK, I shall be running some Northampton Writing Courses from January 2014. Anyway, on to the reason for this page…

At 5am on Wednesday 24th October 2012, I woke up to a message from my Facebook…

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Editing Tip: 10 Words to Search For in Your Manuscript

Some great tips here! 😀

JULIET MADISON

967211_magnifying_glassWhen I’m editing, and before I do a final read through and tweaking of my manuscript, I use Microsoft Word’s ‘find’ feature to search for the following ten words. These words can usually be deleted in order to tighten up the writing and focus on ‘showing vs telling’.

1. almost
Sometimes ‘almost’ can work but often it’s not needed. Eg: With his sunken eyes and pallor he almost looked like a ghost. An example where it may work could be: She almost slammed the door in his face. Or instead of that, it could be changed to: She resisted the urge to slam the door in his face.
2. very
Usually there is a stronger word available to replace the need for ‘very’, or the phrase can be changed completely to something else. Eg: ‘very sad’ could become ‘despondent’. Eg: It was very sunny. Better: It was sunny. Even better:…

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The joy of writing and building worlds…

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The joy of writing is the act of creation.

A whole fantasy world made manifest – turning blank pages into battles of character, plot and the subtleties of prose.

But for me, the joy of writing is not merely the act of creating a story which engages and enthralls its readers but in creating a world I can immerse myself in. World building is a skill and one of the many challenges that fantasy and sci-fi writers face when weaving their tales. When done correctly, it compliments the story giving depth and gravitas to ground the fantasy. When done poorly, it smothers the story – turning it into an incidental neighbour you forgot to invite to the party, or worst still, jars with the story due to its utter lack of realism.file3121313815879[1]

The temptation for all writers who world build, is simply that it becomes SO enjoyable to construct your worlds, that you can get easily seduced by your own cleverness – by the intricacies of cultures, the development of language, the botany and animal life, geology, geography and rich histories of your creations. Now that’s fine, if you intend being the only reader of your novel. But, if you’re looking for a readership of more than one, you have to curtail your inner nerd…just a little!

I speak from experience here. Being a teacher of phonetics among other things, I love linguistics and the construction of language. As a result, between my love of phonics and etymology, I have constructed a working language for my characters – ancient Dworllish complete with a basic 24 character Dworllian alphabet based on Maori, Old English, Old Norse and African Bantu dialects! Yes…I did mention nerd, didn’t I?

So, did I include this language and all its nuisances in my book? No. Elements, occasional references and words, but that’s all. I want my novel to have as wide an appeal as possible and readers, even language loving nerds like me, simply don’t need all that information and certainly the story doesn’t.file0001006582285[1]

Okay, so you’ve curtailed your inner geek and taken out those character genealogies you were working on, but what makes a world work? If your novel is a fantasy, whether it be urban, steam punk, classic, high, crossover, contemporary or gothic, do you need to make your world real? HELL YES! No matter how fantastical your creations are, if they are not grounded in realism it makes it damn hard for the reader to connect or care about them.

Think of basic scientific laws, gravity, light speed, evolution etc, of course to bring the magic in, you’ll need to break or subvert these laws but you’ll need to bring realism in somewhere else. This for me, is my next joy…research, research, research!file000816536459[1]

SO much fun it should be illegal! If you’re writing about histories, cultures, mountains, desserts, jungles – research. Let me say that again…RESEARCH! (my nerdy self revels in this)

Even if you only use a fraction of your research in your novel, it will give an integrity and depth of realism to your world that you won’t be able to replicate without. But again, don’t overload it, use sparingly.

For White Mountain and the world behind The Darkling Chronicles, my research runs into three or four large box files and a plethora of books. Ancient history – particularly Sumeria, the Hittites and the Indus Valley civilisation. Indigenous people – like the Chukchi, Nenets, Khanty and Evenki of Russia and the Siberian tundra. The geography and geology of the real locations my characters travel to. Botany and wildlife etc etc. Make it REAL!

Kallorm ‘City of Light’, my subterranean metropolis beneath the Congolese jungles, in central Africa, feels real because so many things around it ARE real, from the colour of the earth in that region to the sapele and iroko trees that grow there. For my Fendellin ‘Kingdom of Dragons’, a lost realm amongst the Himalayas, I based on Tibetan Buddhist myths and Indian folklore about Shambhala – the same legend that inspired James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon and his Shangri-La.

Oh…and any places you travel to, use them for inspiration too. The landscapes of Dartmoor and New Zealand have been particularly rich for me.

So, you’ve done your research, built your world, made it real but not overpowered or forgotten your story (remember – story and characters take gold & silver, setting – bronze), then you are on your way!

Ah…the joy of writing and building worlds… 😀

For some useful advice on the subject, check out Fantasy Faction and their post ‘Why World Build?’ http://fantasy-faction.com/2012/why-would-build/

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